For 2017, the Raymond Chan Wine Reviews ‘Winery of the Year’ is awarded to Vidal Estate in Hastings, Hawke’s Bay. The wines from this winery are leaders in the contemporary expressions of Chardonnay, the Bordeaux varieties and Syrah in New Zealand. The bottlings of these wines under the flagship ‘Legacy’ tier are stunning, and they are supported by very strong and high quality in the premium ‘Reserve’ wines as well as the very respectable ‘Estate’ wines which offer great value. Few wine producers match the quality and consistency of these varieties across the three ranges as seen at Vidal Estate.
The quality of the Vidal Estate wines has never been better, and much can be attributed to the passion and determination of winemaker Hugh Crichton, with the company since 2004, and as winemaker since 2006. Hugh changed his profession from merchant banker to winemaker with experience at Chateau Soutard in St Emilion and Donnafugata in Italy, as well as at Chard Farm in Central Otago and Millton Vineyard in Gisborne. These wine stages, along with tasting many of the world’s great wines has led to his position and winemaking philosophy now. Hugh has as his assistant, Oliver Styles, originally a writer for Decanter magazine in the U.K. coming to New Zealand in 2009. Between the two of them, they direct the style of the Vidal Estate wines.
The selection process for ‘Winery of the Year’ is one of the more difficult decisions I make for Raymond Chan Wine Reviews, but it is also one of the most enjoyable. The task of looking back at the best wines I have tasted over the year just gone is highly rewarding for me. It shows the ever-growing number of producers making superb wines, which reflects the maturity and confidence of the industry. We have been blessed with a run of excellent vintages recently, and the wines from them are still available. 2017 was a far more challenging season, with cooler weather during growth, and rains during harvest. Yet, I have seen many wines that are, or will be outstanding. This is surely a sign of the extremely high standards our winegrowers work to.
Many other winegrowers and producers have made their mark on me through the past year. I must mention the followeing, as they are making noteworthy wines. Again I bring them to your attention, going geographically from north to south, and in alphabetical order.
Here are the outstanding New Zealand wines I have tasted as ‘Feature Reviews’ during the period of start of December 2016 to end of November 2017. The following wines are presented according to variety or style. On occasion where there are ties in the scoring, I have listed more than one in that particular category. Not every varietal or wine style merited listing. The wines celebrate diversity and excellence throughout the country.
Saint Clair ‘Wairau Reserve’ Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2016 19.5/20
Spy Valley ‘Envoy’ ‘Johnson Vineyard’ Waihopai Valley Marlborough Pinot Gris 2016 19.0+/20
Dry River ‘Lovat’ Martinborough Gewurztraminer 2016 19.0+/20
Spy Valley ‘Envoy’ ‘Johnson Vineyard’ Waihopai Valley Marlborough Gewurztraminer 2016 19.0+/20
Greystone ‘Sea Star’ Waipara Valley Riesling 2016 19.0+/20
Clos de Ste Anne ‘Les Arbres’ Gisborne Viognier 2015 19.0/20
Anthony Joseph Vidal 1888 ‘Lyons Vineyard’ Hawke’s Bay Chardonnay 2014 20.0/20
Jules Taylor ‘OTQ’ ‘Limited Release’ ‘Single Vineyard’ Marlborough Pinot Noir Rosé 2017 19.0/20
Ata Rangi Martinborough Pinot Noir 2015 19.5+/20
Escarpment ‘Te Rehua’ Martinborough Pinot Noir 2015 19.5+/20
Valli ‘Gibbston Vineyard’ Central Otago Pinot Noir 2016 19.5+/20
Clearview ‘Reserve’ Hawke’s Bay Cabernet Franc 2015 19.0-/20
Clearview ‘Two Pinnacles’ ‘Reserve’ Hawke’s Bay Malbec 2015 18.5+/20
Dry River ‘Craighall’ Martinborough Tempranillo 2015 18.5+/20
Squawking Magpie ‘Platinum’ Gimblett Gravels Hawke’s Bay Merlot 2013 19.5/20 Oct
Squawking Magpie ‘Platinum’ Gimblett Gravels Hawke’s Bay Cabernets 2013 19.5+/20
Villa Maria ‘Library Release’ Gimblett Gravels Hawke’s Bay Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 19.5+/20
SOHO ‘Blue Blood Reserve’ ‘Zabeel’ Waiheke Island 2015 19.5-/20
Trinity Hill ‘Homage’ Hawke’s Bay Syrah 2015 19.5+/20
Pegasus Bay ‘Encore’ Waipara Valley Noble Riesling 2016 19.0+/20
Wineries that are distributed by ‘Wine2Trade’, the company that Raymond Chan Wine Reviews’ operates under, are not eligible for the ‘Winery of the Year’ award. (Click here to see these wineries.) In way of compensation, I will list separately my ‘Favourites of the Year from the Wine2Trade Portfolio’ in a follow-up article. To see my ‘Favourites from the Wine2Trade Portfolio’ 2017, click here.